The four functions of behavior in applied behavior analysis therapy

Understanding the Function of Behavior

Jul 9, 2021

Here on the Innovative Behavior Options’ blog, we offer practical tips, advice, and encouragement from our ABA therapy staff to families with children with special needs. We draw on cumulative decades of experience offering ABA therapy to children and adults of all ages, and our goal is to make therapy a positive experience with results that last a lifetime. When you read our blog, our hope is that you walk away with a new nugget of knowledge, a useful tip that can help your child, or the encouragement to make it through a tough day.

Today, we want to delve into an ABA therapy term that can both add a bit of context to your kiddo’s applied behavior analysis (ABA) journey and serve as an additional tool in your toolbox as you work with your child and navigate behavioral changes.

The Four Functions of Behavior

As ABA therapists, we look at why a behavior is occurring – what function does it serve for your child. We’ll explain more about why it’s so important to understand the role a behavior is playing below. First, here are the four different functions of behavior:

Sensory Stimulation: Sensory stimulation behaviors give a child sensory input that they find comfortable or comforting. Parents and caregivers of children with Autism are frequently familiar with sensory-seeking behaviors.

Attention: Attention seeking behaviors are intended to gain social attention, such as from another child or an adult.

Access to Tangibles: This is a behavior used to gain access to a tangible item or an activity.

Escape: An escape behavior is one used to get a child out of a situation or away from something.

Of course, a behavior can serve more than one purpose, too.

Why is the Function of Behavior Important in ABA Therapy?

Understanding the function of a particular behavior allows the ABA therapy team to develop a behavior plan to either prevent a behavior or to find a socially appropriate replacement. At IBO, we observe your child in his or her daily environments to see what actions or events precede problem behaviors and to better understand what purpose the problem behavior serves for your child. Once we understand the purpose, we can create a plan to eliminate or replace the problem behavior, while still fulfilling your child’s needs.

At Innovative Behavior Options, our goal is to increase adaptive skills and decrease potentially maladaptive behaviors. To learn more about our approach to ABA therapy, give us a call at 770-250-0093 or check out our website.



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